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Ninth Suspicious Package Addressed to Former Vice President Biden; Nationwide Manhunt for Suspected Serial Bomber; Interview with Senator Ben Sasse. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2018 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:21] JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. The breaking news this morning. The FBI is investigating two new packages today as the nationwide manhunt for a serial bomber continues. Officials warn, they keep on warning repeatedly, that more bombs may be out there. This morning, the ninth suspicious package found in the state of Delaware was intended for the former vice president, Joe Biden.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And hours before an eighth suspected mail bomb was discovered right here in New York City. This one sent to the actor Robert De Niro at his office in Lower Manhattan. De Niro and Biden like the six other targets reported yesterday all outspoken critics of the president. Outside of this independent news network that was also targeted with the package addressed to John Brennan.

This morning what is the president doing? He's taking aim at the media. We'll get to that in a moment but first the investigation, the breaking details. Evan Perez joins us now.

So what can you tell us about what's been discovered in Delaware?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Poppy, at this time they're still trying to examine the package that they have identified to see whether it is indeed another one of these mail bombs that they have now tracked to seven different locations around the country. Just to bring you up to date, over the last 24 hours, especially overnight, the Postal Service was scrambling to try to find this package because it turns out a package that was addressed to Joe Biden had been returned.

It was supposed to be delivered to his address in Delaware, his home address in Delaware, but it appears because of some problem, perhaps because of insufficient postage, it was returned to sender, and like the other packages, it was -- the return sender label was from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the congresswoman in Florida. So the scramble went on for -- in the overnight hours as the postal service was trying to check to see whether it had made it back to Florida or whether it was still in the system in Delaware.

And so this morning, as you see the live pictures there from outside of Wilmington, the Postal Service believes that they have now the package in their hands. And the examination now begins to see whether or not it contains the same tell-tale signals, signatures of a bomb, the mail bomb. It appears to be wrapped up in black tape with wires and perhaps may contain the same explosive that was found in other devices.

And keep in mind, the work is still being done by the FBI at Quantico lab. They are going to examine every single one of these bombs and they're going to try to see if they can identify who made this, what were the components that these were was made from. And so that's the work that's being done right now by the FBI and the investigators working this case.

HARLOW: OK. Evan, thank you for all you did yesterday, to the breaking news, and for all of this, this morning. We'll get back to you shortly.

SCIUTTO: With the New York governor on a short time ago, Andrew Cuomo, and he said, as many have repeated, the concern is more to come.

HARLOW: More. Right.

SCIUTTO: More to come.

Let's go now to Miguel Marquez, he's in New York City. More on the mail bomb number eight.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Believed sent to the offices of Robert De Niro.

What's the latest down there, Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they found it in the mail room here at Tribeca Film Productions in Tribeca. Not entirely surprising, I suppose, that Mr. De Niro would be a target of one of these devices as he has been a frequent critic of and sharp critic of President Trump. The package itself looks very much like others that we have seen, the six Forever postage stamps on it. No postmark like the one that was sent to CNN, so it's not clear that it went through the Postal Service at all. Maybe it was hand delivered to this location.

A quick-acting security guard saw it, based on the pictures that had been out there. Law enforcement officials says that the x-ray, the initial x-ray of the package also looks like the devices that they have seen. NYPD seemingly getting pretty darn good at this because they were able to get down here around 5:00 in the morning, and get it into that specialized truck and move it up to their facility in the Bronx where they can now investigate and figure out if there are signatures that match and if there is any evidence on that package or on that device that might lead them to whoever is doing this.

The Tribeca Film Productions and Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal, who have run Tribeca Films, released a quick statement saying that the building was evacuated. Everybody is safe, and this is not what free speech should look like.

Back to you two.


SCIUTTO: It's not. Miguel Marquez, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Evan Perez as well.

Joining us now, former New York City police commissioner, Howard Safir, CNN law enforcement analyst, former FBI supervisory special agent Josh Campbell, and retired ATF special agent David Chipman.

[10:05:06] Commissioner Safir, if I could start with you first.


SCIUTTO: You used to run the police department here in the city of New York. Also in difficult times. When you look at this threat so far, both the bombs we've seen so far, the fact that they were functional explosive devices, the reaction of the New York Police Department, what do you say to folks who have been saying, oh, this is being made into a bigger deal than it is? Doesn't seem like the NYPD is treating it that way.

SAFIR: We are not. And they are not. And they should not. The fact is, live explosive devices, whether or not they were competently made or intentionally made not to explode doesn't matter. They have all the elements of a bomb. They have power, they have a timer, they have an explosive material. So you have to take this very seriously.

This may be the beginning or the prelude to somebody sending really functional bombs or it could be that the individual who put it together is so incompetent that he didn't put it together properly. But the fact is we have to take this very seriously because any one of these devices could explode and cause great damage.

HARLOW: Right. Which is exactly what the officials were saying yesterday, David, that -- you know, they were pretty stunned from our Pamela Brown's reporting that some of them didn't explode, you know, in the multiple hands that they touched before they reached these mail rooms.

We know a few things. We know that they were functional. We know that at least one had a timer, David. We also know that at least one contained projectiles including shards of glass. What does that tell you about whomever was behind this?

DAVID CHIPMAN, RETIRED ATF SPECIAL AGENT: Well, it tells me this isn't fake news. I mean, this is the real deal. And rest assured, the FBI, ATF, NYPD, postal inspectors, are going to get to the bottom of this and catch who is doing this. I think that in studying past bombing cases I have worked at, really these cases get solved by law enforcement working with the media and the public to keep them adequately informed about what they're dealing with.

In this case already, you see some common components. It would be odd for someone to go into a store and buy 10 identical timers at the same time. Perhaps a store owner remembers this. And it will be that kind of, you know, relating to the public that I think through the media is really going to break this case. We can only look at the Kaczynski case. It was a family member who recognized writings. And so this is America coming together to solve this case before someone gets hurt.


SCIUTTO: Josh Campbell, Governor Cuomo, of course, briefed on the latest information about this, raised the possibility that these devices were delivered in different ways. Not all of them by the mail. Some couriered, possibly even hand-delivered, at least raises the possibility that the perpetrator was the one who delivered them and he said that the New York Police Department and others are now poring over video footage to establish just that.

Where would that put the investigation if that's true?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: So when law enforcement officers start, they try to determine how big a net they need to cast.

HARLOW: Right.

CAMPBELL: And they start by looking at the geography of potential crime scenes. Obviously, you know, we know where that -- those locations are relegated to now. What makes it a little bit different, if you think not too long ago, there was this issue with this ricin -- suspected ricin sender who was sending packages to various facilities. He was found across the country in Utah, presumably using the mail or some type of delivery service. So that opened the aperture where law enforcement needed to look.

If we're now in a setting where this person is hand delivering or using some type of courier service, that closes the net somewhat because the person would presumably have to be here in the New York City area or in its vicinity, so again law enforcement officers aren't out of the woods, but it allows them to tighten the noose a little bit around the area to try to determine what they're dealing with.

I will say with respect to the specificity of these devices and the sophistication we've talked about.

HARLOW: Right.

CAMPBELL: That something doesn't have to be sophisticated to kill people.

HARLOW: Right.

CAMPBELL: I don't think we're dealing with Robert Oppenheimer here. I mean, this person obviously didn't really know how to make these devices go bang or they would have. But again, it makes it no less lethal. And we were all talking yesterday that it's just a matter of time before new devices are going to start coming out. We were talking with our sources in law enforcement yesterday and they actually told us this afternoon, look, we don't know anything beyond what CNN is reporting as far as new devices but that could change in the manner we're seeing today.

HARLOW: Yes. With the warning that we've heard from the mayor of New York and the governor on our air as well.

David, back to you just on what we have found, right, that package, these live explosives we delivered to this building just a few floors below us addressed to former CIA director John Brennan, we now know had this powder and they believe that in that envelope there was what's called pyrotechnic power believed to be from a pipe bomb. Anything that that tells you about the suspect?

CHIPMAN: Well, it tells you that that's readily available.

[10:10:01] I mean, people have, you know, fireworks. They can use those in these devices. For law enforcement, that's a real problem. Actually, commercially made explosives are actually more reliable and easier to deal with. In fact, the only ATF employee I know ever killed in a bombing situation was killed dealing with the detonation of fireworks. So --

HARLOW: So that is just basically fireworks powder?

CHIPMAN: It could be.

SCIUTTO: Gun powder?

CHIPMAN: And we'll have to see. I mean, that's why we've got it, it hasn't exploded. And so we won't eventually have to guess about this. The laboratory will in fact know exactly the device.

SCIUTTO: Some fireworks, there's a small amount of gun powder. You could extract the gun powder, I suppose, and turn that into a device? I just want to be clear.

CHIPMAN: Yes. So there have been many ways. I mean, people in the past have emptied rounds of ammunition, they've cut up fireworks, and sometimes when authorities describe the crudeness of it, you know, they use terms to describe that, you know, someone didn't go out and buy explosives or steal military explosives. But that being said, all of these have the potential to do harm, to injure people, to maim people, and certainly, to scare people, which might be the intent in this case.

SCIUTTO: Commissioner Safir, just -- you raised the possibility earlier, just a moment ago, about the -- and again, this is the possibility because you have to be prepared for everything. That an attack like this or a series of attempted attacks like this could presage something bigger. A test run, that kind of thing. Is there precedent for that in investigations you have overseen or done where something of a smaller scale precedes something of a larger scale? Is that a concern?

SAFIR: It is. And we have seen it over the years in various investigations and terrorist incidents where people plant secondary devices. We just don't know. But the good news is we live in a digital age and what's going to happen here is the forensic examination of these devices, I believe, is going to turn up evidence. Going to be able to track some of this, and we're going to get video.


SAFIR: I don't think this is going to take a very long time for us to find out who is behind this.

HARLOW: It's an important point. The surveillance video, right? There's just so much of it in New York and in these locations.

Thank you all very, very much for your expertise. We certainly appreciate it. The manhunt is on, bracing for potentially more explosive packages. That's the warning from officials.

This morning, the president, though, defiant. Attacking the media, blaming it for the anger that we're seeing it. We're on top of all the breaking news. Stay with us.


[10:17:22] SCIUTTO: This morning, President Trump is once again targeting the media. Didn't take long after these nine attempted attacks. One of which, of course, came into the building here at CNN. The president tweeting the following. Quoting here, "A very big part of the anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the mainstream media that I refer to as the fake news."

Whenever I read that tweet, I will fact-check it. There is no purposely false reporting from myself or our colleagues here at CNN. That is false.

Joining us now is Senator Ben Sasse, Republican from the great state of Nebraska.

Senator Sasse, first, if I could just ask you to comment on the president's reaction to this. Has he said the words that you want the president of your party to say following the series of attempted attacks now, CNN just one of them, several other lawmakers, current and former, the other targets. Has he said what you want to hear?

SEN. BEN SASSE (R), NEBRASKA: So I haven't heard all of the tweets this morning. I haven't heard the details of those. And I was glad to hear him explicitly condemn the violence yesterday, but the bigger picture problem you're flagging here is obviously a core problem, right? We don't refer to the press as the enemy of the people in America.

This is a First Amendment society and the beating heart of our First Amendment society is freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the right to protest. And so we need the president and we need all other public officials to be reaffirming that basic idea about what unites us as Americans. And so I haven't heard -- I haven't heard again what he said this morning, but we need to stop with all this nonsense language about the press is the enemy of the people.

HARLOW: He essentially said that again this morning in so many words. OK. He pointed right at the media and blamed them for the anger.

Senator, look, let me preface this by saying no lawmaker, regardless of party, should say things like this. Maxine Waters should not say harass them, Eric Holder should not say kick them, right, talking about the other party. The president should certainly not call the press the enemy of the American people and he certainly shouldn't call a lawmaker that body slams a journalist "my guy."

This is a platform. You called him out on Twitter before. You've given floor speeches about this, but this morning, to the president, if he's watching, what is your message as a leader in the Republican Party?

SASSE: The president needs to reaffirm the basic American value of the universal dignity of 320 million people. And when 320 million people have God-given rights -- again the government doesn't give us rights. The government is our shared project to secure those rights.

[10:20:02] We have rights from God via nature, and those include free speech, free assembly, and those of you who have the calling of serving in the press for a time, or those of us who serve in public life for a time, we need to be constantly reaffirming those things which unite us as Americans across generations and across political parties.

HARLOW: But, Senator, respectfully --

SASSE: There's lots of policy fighting --

HARLOW: What does he need to say? What words need to come out of his mouth? Because we were all attacked yesterday. Right? I mean, we had to run out of this building.

SASSE: We condemn political violence in America. Political violence is un-American. There is no place for it in America. And so what we do in America is we believe in the dignity of people, and when we differ with them on policy or when we differ with them on things well outside government and culture, if you're debating about theology or if you're deciding which business to start, you try to persuade people with your words that start with the assumption that these are eternal souls.

And people who have eternal souls you try to win over time by persuasion, not by threatening violence. And so we condemn political violence in America. Every American needs to be against political terrorism. And so that starts at the top, that the president has the biggest bully pulpit in America. And he needs to affirm again that we condemn all political terrorism in America.

There's a really important distinction which seems to be lost in a lot of our debates about media criticism. There is an absolute right of individual Americans, and that includes the president of the United States, to disagree with political, with particular stories. There are particular stories that are often and regularly biased. We should criticize that. And the way we do that is by arguing about the merits of the story, not by delegitimizing or dehumanizing the people who are on the other side of a political fight or on the other side of a particular account of one set of facts that we're debating.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this because this is ultimately political in the sense of electorally political right because it comes down to what gets folks elected, what works. And there's a big midterm election coming here.


SCIUTTO: Your colleague, soon to be outgoing colleague Jeff Flake, made a very honest point recently and said listen, I couldn't say this stuff, I couldn't win as a Republican if I criticized the president in the way that I do now. As long as that is the dynamic, right, where to win Republicans, not all of them, because I will give you credit for occasionally differing with the president on issues, but as long as that is the reality, how does this change?

And you could say the same on the other side. I hate this, you know, both sides thing, but listen, there is a reality on the other side, not a lot of Democrats are going to win races by praising the president, right. But as long as that is the electoral dynamic, what really changes this?

SASSE: Well, so let's draw a bunch of distinctions here, right? One is campaigning versus governing. Another is getting a job versus being a public servant. So the most important thing to say is winning elections should not be the main goal of people who have a short-term calling to serve in public life. I'm one out of -- one of I think eight people out of 100 in the U.S. Senate who's never been a politician before being elected by the people in Nebraska four years ago to represent them for a six-year term.

It's an honor to get to represent Nebraskans, but I pledged to them on my primary election victory night and on my general election victory night in 2014 that for the next six years I was going to start out for four and a half of those six years pretending or assuming I'm never going to run again because the job of being a public servant is to help govern and shepherd the public trust to the next generation.

The main goal of a politician is not to think about your own incumbency and your own re-election. And that's one of the fundamental problems in D.C., is that maybe two thirds of these 535 people I work with, their main long term thought is their own incumbency. That should not be our long term thought. Our long term thought should be 10 and 20 and 30 years in the future, what will our kids understand about shared American civics.

We've got a bunch of big challenges in this country. Some subset of them are going to be responsive to legislation, but the bigger things that we believe in common are bigger than Republican and Democrat and they're bigger than your next election. They're things that are 10 and 20 years in the future.


SASSE: And we need to reaffirm those civic things first. HARLOW: Senator, every indication from the White House now, our

Pamela Brown is reporting, is that they don't think there's anything wrong with the rhetoric. Sarah Sanders said just as much this morning, and that it's not going to be toned down.

I want to know specifically from you, because the president has not called this domestic terrorism. A, is what has happened in the last 48 hours domestic terrorism? And if you think it is, should the president call it that?

SASSE: Yes, so I haven't had a conversation with law enforcement, either locally or nationally, but I will say that we are blessed to have the FBI. The FBI is a good organization filled with patriots, and they're going do a great job of getting to the bottom of this. So I'm not going to speculate on the motives of the particular individual in this case. But this sure looks to me like domestic terrorism and threats of political violence and we need to recognize that all of that crap is un-American.


[10:25:05] SASSE: We've got a whole bunch of people in Washington who do talk like politics are ultimate. That the most important thing is your political tribe. That isn't true. That Washington isn't the center of life, and politics can't solve most of the big problems we face. Politics is really important. I fly away from my family and my kids four, five nights a week because I think politics matters.

HARLOW: Right.

SASSE: But politics is not ultimate. And when you have a bunch of people in D.C. who talk insanely like politics is ultimate, it's not surprising that some insane people start to act like politics are ultimate. Steve Scalise got shot by people, by a guy who believed that politics was ultimate, and he from the left was going to try to kill Steve Scalise because he was a Republican official on the right.

Now the last couple of days we have a whole bunch of Democrats being targeted by somebody. Again, we don't know the particulars of it, but it sure looks like these are all people that are rhetorically usually in the crosshairs of the White House. This isn't the way we do politics in America. Politics fit in American life, but they're not the center.

The ultimate communities are the communities where people are raising their kids and where they're loving their neighbor and where they're going to worship services on Saturday or Sunday. And so those places need to thrive and flourish, and D.C. needs to have a clearer sense of itself as a community that exists of servant leaders who try to maintain a framework for our liberty and stop talking about politics like it's the great line of good and evil where final battles are going to be won. It's not true.

HARLOW: Thus the title of the senator's book, "Why We Hate Each Other and How We Heal." We need to do a lot of healing.

Senator Ben Sasse, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Thank you. Thank you for taking the time.

We have more breaking news coming in to CNN. This out of Delaware. The latest target of another package addressed to the vice president. We'll be back with more.